Responsibility In Business

vs. unreliability

Knowing and doing what is expected of me

To practice Responsibility I will:

  • do my work to be best of my ability
  • keep my commitments
  • clarify expectations
  • not make excuses
  • correct my mistakes

    “No Excuse, Sir!”
    -Jill W Tomey

    It was the summer of 1965, when Mike Krzyzewski entered the summer orientation program at West Point Military Academy. During this time, new cadets are turned into plebes by the upperclassman. They quickly learn that there are only 3 answers that a plebe can give an upperclassman. They are “Yes, Sir!”, “No, Sir!” and “No Excuse, Sir!”.

    One afternoon, Krzyzewski was walking with his roommate when his roommate stepped in a puddle splashing mud on Krzyzewski’s highly shined shoes. A few minutes later, some upperclassman approached and questioned him on the mud on his shoes, a clear violation of standards. When asked about it, he could only reply, “No excuse, Sir!” He was verbally shamed, written up and given demerits by the upperclassman and had to return to the barracks to restore his shoes to their required pristine condition. At the time he was very angry with his friend for splashing him.

    After several weeks of training, he gradually understood that the responsibility for the condition of his shoes was his choice. He could have cleaned his shoes when the incident occurred or pressed his luck and ignored the problem. No matter what happens, he learned that he still has the responsibility to keep his shoes clean.

    Mike Krzyzewski, also known as Coach K, is currently the head basketball coach at Duke University. He has coached the Blue Devils to five NCAA championships and twelve Final Fours. He has taught this same character quality of responsibility to his players. “Whether on the basketball court or the battlefield, there is no time for extended conversations about who is to blame for this or that foul-up. Every player, every soldier, must take personal responsibility. There can be no excuses, no shifting of blame. Everybody is responsible. If one player or one soldier fails, everybody suffers.” (p. 157)

    This story appears in the book, Character Carved in Stone: The 12 Core Virtues of West Point that Build Leaders and Produce Success, by Pat Williams with Jim Denney, 2019. Williams concludes the chapter on Responsibility with the advice that it is time to end the excuses, the complaining and the blaming. No longer is it acceptable to blame an abusive childhood, lost opportunities or anybody else for our shortcomings and failings. It’s time to be accountable to ourselves and to others.

    This month, take responsibility for yourself and end the blame game.